Gardening is a wonderful journey, especially when you’re just starting out.
The fall season offers an exciting opportunity to plant shrubs that will flourish in the upcoming year. If you’re in Zone 7, like we are here in Reston, Virginia, you’re in for a treat! (In fact, Zone 7 covers eastern Maryland, most of Virginia and other parts.)
We’ll walk you through the best shrubs to plant in the fall, the how-tos of planting them, and why fall is the ideal time for your gardening activities.
Why plant in the fall?
Fall planting is like a secret weapon for gardeners. The soil is still warm, but the air is cooler, creating the perfect environment for root growth.
Since shrubs’ growth shifts downward in the fall, they focus on developing strong root systems.
This gives them a head start for the following growing season, enabling them to withstand the challenges of summer better.
Additionally, fall-planted shrubs often require less water than those planted in the spring or summer, which is great news for both your water bill and the environment.
Five Shrubs That Perform Well in Your Zone 7 Yard
Lilac (Syringa spp.)
Lilacs are known for their enchanting fragrance and beautiful clusters of flowers. Fall planting allows them to establish their roots, leading to healthier growth and a more vibrant bloom in the spring.
Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus)
The vibrant red foliage of the Burning Bush is a fall spectacle. Planting it during this time helps it settle in before winter and puts on a fiery show year after year.
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
If you’re looking to add a pop of color to your fall and winter landscape, the Winterberry is perfect. Planting it in the fall gives it ample time to develop its iconic red berries.
Forsythia (Forsythia spp.)
Forsythias dazzle with their bright yellow flowers that herald the arrival of spring. Planting in the fall provides a strong foundation for their growth and subsequent flowering.
Bluebeard (Caryopteris x clandonensis)
This shrub boasts striking silver foliage and blue flowers in late summer and early fall. Fall planting encourages robust root development, leading to a more bountiful display in the warmer months.
Now, if you notice we’ve chosen shrubs that provide special favors, including fragrance and/or color, you’re pretty perceptive! These are just a few of the many wonderful shrub choices you can make.
How to Plant Your Fall Shrubs
- Choose the right location. Each shrub has unique sunlight and soil requirements. Read up on your chosen shrubs and select a location that suits their needs.
- Prepare your soil. Well-draining soil is crucial. Add compost to improve soil structure and fertility. Test the soil’s pH and adjust if necessary.
- Dig the hole. Dig a hole twice as wide as the shrub’s root ball, but no deeper. The top of the root ball should be level with the soil surface.
- Remove the plant from the container. Gently remove the shrub from its container, being mindful not to disturb the roots excessively.
- Plant it properly. Place the shrub in the hole and fill it with soil, gently patting it down as you go to eliminate air pockets.
- Water it in. Water the shrub thoroughly after planting. This helps settle the soil and ensures the roots make good contact with it.
- Mulching is important! Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the shrub, but avoid piling it against the stem. Mulch helps retain moisture, regulate temperature, and suppress weeds.
Fall Planting: A Rewarding Adventure
Embarking on your gardening journey in the fall is an exciting way to set the stage for a colorful and thriving landscape in the coming seasons. With these top shrub picks and planting guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to success.
Remember, gardening is a learning experience, and each plant you nurture will teach you something new.
As you watch your shrubs grow and transform, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and connection to the natural world around you.
So grab your gardening gloves, a shovel, and a smile, and let this fall be the start of a beautiful gardening story you’ll cherish for years to come. As always, if you have questions or need anything — like more plants or more mulch — our friendly and helpful team at Reston Farm Garden Market is standing by.